Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Stochastic Resonance

Stochastic = Random

Resonance = Excited state of stability.

The beach is a perfect place to unwind your thoughts and let the warmth of the sun bathe the concepts that are trying to germinate within. Don’t you think?

The Beach 

It was one of those days many moons ago, the sand was soft where the water had not yet reached and where it had, it had firmed a bit. As I walked, I saw the frothy bubbles that emerged and then laid themselves down in a frenzy bursting into nothingness. The waves kept coming, one right after the other, crashing gently onto the beach; the water welling over the sand and then quietly receding, some into the sand and the rest going back to organize and return. And as I walked just proximate to the watered down edge of the sand, a larger oncoming wave forced me to adjust my path. After all I was wearing my new flip-flops.

Why did that happen?

Time Zones and Jet Lag.

You see there is a periodicity of rhythms that keep the flow of life in synch. The biorhythms for instance keep you into the wake-sleep cycle. You can’t sleep when you are fully alert and try as you may cannot keep your eyes open when it is time to sleep (Ignoring caffeinated samples for this monologue of course). And here I would be remiss, if I didn’t bring in the quick and dirty subject of jet-lag. You fly off to Timbuktu and upon return your eyes are half-mast at noon while the rest of the world is going about its daily ventures. There is obvious disruption that has been encountered by the biorhythmic center of the brain and it is trying to self-regulate its cadence against time-zones.

Getting back to those waves that tried to wet my flip-flops. You see the periodicity of the rhythmic waves was offset by a chance rogue wave that decided to ride on top of it thus culminating in a larger wave. So the random wave culprit jacked-on to the periodic one and gave it a ride. Ok well that is quite simple isn’t it?


A bigger example that might attract your attention would be the recent “Super-Storm” (By the way, technically there is no such thing except for the Hollywood imbued media). So “Sandy” and what a gutsy call for a name to begin with that was, happened to lurk as a Category-1 hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean for a few days giving fair warnings for what it was about to do. You know that 1 in a million, 90-degree left turn when it was supposed to go straight up with a veer to the right and away from the land-mass, as all its previous brethren had done.

But, Sandy was a typical storm that got squeezed between a High pressure area over the Atlantic, a Cold-front over the Mid-west and then it took a ride on the split Jet-stream up through the Northeast quickly and disappeared leaving behind untold misery.

The periodicity of the hurricane was not uncommon. They do arise from the heat over the African Sahara and carry the energies across the Atlantic to the Caribbean  Islands and then depending on the Jet-stream and other high and low pressure areas go through Florida or ride up the East Coast. And Sandy was no different until it hit the roadblock of the Atlantic Ocean High Pressure that funneled it into New Jersey and then squeezed it between the Cold front and onto the split jet-stream that rode it out to the Canadian maritime.

Jersey Shore Casino Pier after Sandy

The hurricane periodicity was predicted, the East Coast ride was predicted and then with the other two elements of High pressure, Cold front and the jet-stream everything else became possible. Now add to that the forward speed of Sandy, which was slow, and the 2 high tides it encountered over the New York harbor, Sandy Hook and Mantoloking region and the disaster story was writ large.

Mantoloking, NJ after Sandy

So Sandy was a clear example of a single Stochastic events riding atop multiple periodic events.


Now to my favorite subject of medicine. Do stochastic events mess with periodicity in the medical field and does that affect our health. If you have your head buried in the book, the answer would be difficult to come by, but hear me out and we might come to a mutually compatible understanding.

Neural Stem Cell


Cells have a rhythm too. Let us look at the Nerve cell for instance. The electrical spark generated by the initial stimulus may or may not generate transference of energy across the synapse. 

Nerve Cells transmission

The voltage maybe too low and the action potential may not occur.  Imagine sitting in a loud café where everyone is talking, some hushed and others in their extroverted full-Monty fashion and behind it all is the “clink-clank” of the hostess carrying her silverware and you think you hear your name being called. You look around and there is no one looking for you. 

Brodmann's Area

You go back to your own conversations with whomever but that lingering thought remains and then once again you think someone has called upon you. No it is not Tinker Bell whispering in your ear, but the stochastic of the cacophony around you and the persistent thought within you. 

Your brain is on a semi-high alert. Any admixture of sound in that café that comes close to your name will elicit an action potential to carry from your Brodmann’s Areas 41 and 42 through the Temporal Cortex and via the Corpus to the other side and from there to the Prefrontal region of the Frontal Cortex to invoke an action of turning your head and looking from whence that sound emerged.


Speaking about brains, brain cells and nerve conduction, Alzheimer’s comes to mind. Imagine the malfunctioning tau protein on its Genghis Khan type approach plundering and pillaging the neural sheaths and preventing the transmission of the electrical current feeding into the various parts of the brain that assimilate various stored memories. These malfunctioned tau protein instead of assisting the transfer of electrical stimuli becomes a “roadblock” where even the password doesn’t work to drive through.

Malfunctioned tau interference


But before I go there let me take some liberties with memory. Memory is nothing more than the “Rut” in the brain. Repetitive motion, thought, action all cause alterations in the proteins within the neuronal cell body. Evoking that memory is the cluster of stimuli strong enough to make that particular neuron and its neighbor to get excited and through  that excitation the brain relives the past in the form of memory. A dream is nothing more than the brain trying to make sense of the daily world as it tries to juxtapose events into an illogical format (without full cortical supervision of course); “riding a tall bicycle on a narrow lane,” or “bending steel with the power of the mind.” 

Image of tau (blue colored)

In Alzheimer’s as the dysfunctional tau protein blocks transmission, the recruitment process becomes difficult, thus to evoke a stimulus and rationalize the present with the past. In the initial phases the recruitment is easy jumping over a few jumbled circuits (axons) and with effort one can use detour connections to evoke the transmission, but then it becomes difficult later. And much later a significant event evokes potential through resonance from like-minded neurons and voila a completely discombobulated tale is rehashed that merges past, present, future and is imagined as a non-cohesive but to the person telling, a true story.

The neural recruitment is the basis of transmission and memory. It is also the basis of Grand-mal seizures too, when an abnormal focus of electrical stimulus arises through disease, trauma, or cancer it can through recruitment cause the seizures of the human body. 

The brain and the EEG in a seizure activity

The collection of the surrounding neurons that start firing in concert leads to the rhythmic tonic-clonic seizures.

Now lets delve a little into the stochastic of disease. For there is that too. Cells as I am reminded are a repository of historical facts. They may labor in their capacity to do what they do in terms of function, but they do remember. For instance if you expose your skin to sun, it will tan over time, or burn with too much sun intensity and if you have had many sun burns as a child your risk of Melanoma exceeds the norm during your adulthood. But leaving that aside, since the cells are going about their periodicity of harmonized behavior, every once in a while a random act of interference will take place…

Allow me to explain…

Genetics and Cancer

Knudsen's Hypothesis and cancer

Suppose one of the cells in the organ has a weakened genetic basis, meaning that there is an allelic mismatch, (a good gene (a cancer suppressor gene), which is normally present on both arms of the chromosome is only present on one arm) and this occurs through the cruelty of nature in the division process during the embryological times of one’s life. Life does go on peacefully and in total oblivion to this resident harbinger of “hell.” The cell continues to chatter along, taking inventory, adding and subtracting time from the ledger based on lifestyle behavior and one day a virus comes along and buries itself deep in the tissues. The virus links a piece of its DNA directly into the human cellular DNA right at the level of where the good gene (the tumor suppressor) sits and in doing so, it disrupts the latter’s function of tumor (cancer) suppression. Nothing really happens immediately, but a minor exposure to say cigarette smoke that had previously been un-hurtful because of the protective gene, now, which not having makes the cell vulnerable and turns the faucet of disaster on. The proliferation of the wayward cell begins. 

The cells in the cancer make up

Oh it will be a billion of those nasty germ-line cells admixed with their EMT cousins, before it will be recognized and diagnosed and more than 2/3rds of the cancer lifetime would have passed before medicine will come to the rescue. This chance, rogue and random event will have chided the well orchestrated, well oiled protective machine.

One more question in medicine before we take a break to contemplate our navels. Why do some people contract an infection and others don’t, given similar circumstances of exposure?

Immunity and Resistance to Infection

The simple answer would be immunity and a set of two perfectly functioning (alleles) pair of genes. Having discussed one, lets look at the other; immunity’s role in all this mischief, because a person with lowered immunity will have lowered resistance then one with intact immunity. But there is more than that. There is also the size of the viral load (speaking strictly about viruses) that impacts the immunity. The less viral load the likelihood of infection is low, since the Interferons are there to quickly and expeditiously rid them, However in patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency secondary to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus the ability to generate the Interferons is limited as the protective Lymphocyte (Immune white cells) ratio has been disrupted by the virus. These patients, therefore have a higher predilection to infections and to cancers because the random attacks on their periodic defenses is more than the body can handle on a steady basis.

Thus the resonance of a range of complex events especially in living cells allow for periodic strengthening with coalescence amongst the weak signals to generate a strong signal. Accompanying these weak periodic signals and coinciding with random peaks of a random event and you have the beginnings of a new deadly paradigm.

In fact, and I wasn’t going to go into this, but the whole Lamarckian story of nurture is based on the precept of the human body constantly butting heads with its environment and thus transforming. Okay more on that later, enough said.

The emotional residue of a lingering past blanketed by the color of a random event, transforms!

Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature.~Eric Hoffer

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